The SEC Power Poll for Week 9 dropped yesterday
Alabama is still Alabama.
The Great Big Middle
Could Missouri beat LSU at LSU? Mississippi in Oxford? Florida in The Swamp? I don't know, really. The Georgia game was about turnover margin (Mizzou +4 with a defensive touchdown) more than anything else — Missouri's averaging two net turnovers to the good against SEC foes so far — and the Florida game was Missouri solving a Florida defense that is falling hard from its Dominique Easley-fueled September form. But the drop-off from James Franklin to Maty Mauk is fortunately not massive, and Missouri's defense is likely to have fewer problems with Dylan Thompson than it would have had with Connor Shaw. This is what it looks like when a really good team stays (mostly) healthy and gets breaks to go its way.
And here is how much two good wins — and they're both definitively good wins — impacts my view of Missouri: Weeks ago, I wrote the Tigers "could be an eight-win team" while ranking them No. 12. Now, they would have to lose all five remaining games and their bowl not to be an eight-win team, and further from No. 12 than the teams from No. 6 on down are from No. 1.
LSU beats Mississippi at a neutral site and/or in a rematch, I think, because LSU sleepwalks in fewer of those games. I think LSU beats Georgia in a rematch, too, because the bloom seems to really be coming off the rose with Georgia as it progresses this season. And this is a power poll, not an achievement poll: LSU's "better" than all of the teams I have ranked behind it at this point in time.
Yep, really. Auburn should probably have won its game at Texas A&M by more than it did, and the Tigers destroyed the Aggies on the ground, tallying 379 rushing yards on 60 carries — which matches Alabama's 6.32 yards per carry against A&M exactly, despite the Tigers carrying the ball 23 more times. Auburn receivers dropped passes, and quarterback Nick Marshall sprayed more than a few of them, resulting in just 11 completions on the day — maybe the most significant coming on a drop of a potential touchdown pass that led to a punt, which led to a one-play, 42-yard touchdown drive for the Aggies just before the end of the first half.
Auburn's defense has some ways to go, but the talent is there, and getting hands on Johnny Manziel often enough to sack him three times — a third of the sacks given up by the Ags this year — is evidence that it at least knows pursuit. I doubt this team can beat Alabama, but it should beat every team left on its schedule but the Tide (and Georgia's defense playing Auburn is cruel), and 10 wins would be one hell of a season for Gus Malzahn.
A better team than LSU on one night at home, but also the SEC team with the most growth potential outside of Auburn right now. If Bo Wallace can complete better than 75 percent of his passes and make every other night this year a charmed night, the Rebels could vault even higher here, but I'm certainly not counting on it.
This is my ballot as submitted last night, but I probably would've put Georgia lower than this today: While the defense is getting marginally better, the offense is now falling off as injuries take their toll, and the special teams were utterly disastrous against Vanderbilt, helping hand the Commodores 14 points in a close game.
Oh, and Georgia led 27-14 to begin the fourth quarter, then lost 31-27, turning it over in its own territory on its last three drives and gaining 13 yards in the period. Todd Gurley and Michael Bennett coming back will help, but I'm not sure how much they can help the Dawgs salvage at this point.
7. South Carolina
Connor Shaw means more to this team than any other player on it, Jadeveon Clowney included, and South Carolina won't have him against Missouri in Missouri. South Carolina would do well to use Mike Davis better than Florida used Kelvin Taylor against the Tigers.
8. Texas A&M
Still a combination of "Whoa, that offense" and "Woof, that defense." That will probably beat teams without top-flight offenses — three of them are ranked ahead of the Aggies here, two of them have already beaten A&M, and LSU's waiting for the Aggies to come to Death Valley with an offense that is sometimes brilliant — but the national championship window has closed on the Manziel Era, unless he's coming back, and the defense being this bad is tough to overcome.
The flip side of Texas A&M: "Whoa, that defense" and "Woof, that offense." Florida's actually better on offense (No. 106 nationally) than A&M is on defense (No. 120), and though both teams have top-five units on the other side of the ball, Florida uncharacteristically being bad on offense is infinitely more painful to Gators fans than A&M being traditionally bad on defense is.
Florida also beat Tennessee, which has been much better since that lost afternoon in Gainesville, soundly, though that was with Dominique Easley around. And the difference between Tennessee's first five games and its last three is night and day. Putting Florida ninth and Tennessee 10th was the hardest decision this week.
Vanderbilt both shouldn't have won its game against Georgia and staged a fantastic comeback against Bulldogs that are more black and blue than red and black. I'm not convinced that this was anything more than Vandy's one big home win per year under James Franklin, or that the 'Dores have anyone to be afraid of but Jordan Matthews.
12. Mississippi State
Thank goodness for that bye that allowed us to forget Mississippi State 21, Bowling Green 20.
Razorbacks have been outscored 132-17 over their last three games. And 30 of those points came from Florida!
Congrats, Kentucky! You've still got the worst team in the league this week!